A strange thing happened the other day. A very close friend, who knew that I was planning some blog posts on masks, sent me a poem, which she’d sent me years ago and which had meant a lot to us at the time. And she suggested that it would be worth sharing on the blog. Here’s the link – Please hear what I’m not saying.But the poem didn’t have any resonance for me any more. A few years ago I’d not have said anything to her, but thanked her without telling her what I thought, because I don’t like criticising things that mean a lot to other people. But I’ve made some progress in my own removal of masks, so I told her honestly that the poem didn’t mean much to me any more.
I quoted this passage:
But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope, and I know it.
That is, if it’s followed by acceptance, if it’s followed by love.
It’s the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It’s the only thing that will assure me
of what I can’t assure myself, that I’m really worth something
And I said:
“In a way, what has happened to me has been the very opposite – I opened myself to a glance that I thought was knowing and received neither acceptance nor love. And although it hurt me terribly, at the same time it has set me free in a way I never dreamed possible. Because it forced me to assure myself of what I’m worth, to be my own salvation, and my own strength. It’s quite an amazing feeling.”
Far from being bothered by the fact that I didn’t like the poem she’d sent, my friend replied:
“To tell you the truth, it had been ages since I’d last read it too… In fact, I didn’t even read it again before sending it to you. So your comments on the passage you selected rang far truer to me than what was said in the poem. You are perfectly right: no point us waiting around for someone else to give us an approving glance. In fact, that is often enough the root of many of our problems. We have to convince ourselves of our own worth and certainly NOT be dependent on anyone else’s approval – or it becomes hell!”
It struck me that this was a rather powerful illustration that it is possible to remove masks, and that if we have courage to be open to what life brings, we will learn what we need to learn, without hurting ourselves and others through unfortunate short-cuts, or being dependent on the approval of others.
And each day seems to bring me more examples of how this can be a beneficial process for me and those around me.
I’ve written about the dangers of trying to take a shortcuts to masklessness. But in some ways I suppose what happened to me was in effect a short cut. Several of my worst interpersonal fears came true at once, but I survived, and suddenly those fears no longer have any power to trouble me. It’s not a journey that I’d wish on anyone, but it has helped me immeasurably.
I’m not all the way there yet, and there are still many fears and masks that I haven’t yet dealt with. But looking back I can see just how far I’ve come, and how much easier and more interesting life becomes!
Unfortunately that poem still speaks for the experience of so many people. And despite his claims I’m sadly fairly sure that my ex is still one of them.
I hope that he, and they, find a sustainable and authentic way to take off their masks and heal their fears.